How Big How Blue How Beautiful
Kelis Rogers is that rarest of creatures – a chart-friendly R&B star who gets better with age.
Fifteen years into a fitful but sporadically brilliant career, Kelis has veered into funk, hip-hop, futuristic R&B and electro while always remaining at heart a stellar soul singer. Her flirtation with musical trends is never faddish: she always bends genres to her own musical vision rather than merely trying to fit in.
A decade after her Milkshake brought all the boys to the yard, her sixth album finds her once again exercised by affairs of both the heart and the stomach. The singer has in recent years trained as a cordon bleu chef, and her song titles betray her interest in all things culinary: Breakfast, Jerk Ribs, Hooch, Friday Fish Fry, Biscuits N’ Gravy…
Produced by TV On The Radio’s Dave Sitek, Food is a far less dance-focussed affair than 2010’s glorious Flesh Tones with its stream of club bangers. This is far more of an old-school soul album. Cobbler could be a long-lost Blaxploitation classic; the tempestuous Rumble sounds like a 21st-century take on a Stax Records blues lament.
The link is that the shrewd, impassioned Kelis always sounds as if she is singing about real, recognisable, universal human emotions and dilemmas. In Floyd her husky growl is yearning for a soul mate, longing to be “blown away”; the sultry Biscuits N’Gravy makes far more sense in the boudoir than the kitchen.
Food teems with smart, visceral songs in the key of life, red of tooth and claw and brought to life by a true master of her art. Tuck in.